Oral history of British science
Wickramasinghe, Chandra (2 of 13). Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum. Life Story Interviews
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Science and Religion
2015-07-28, 2015-07-29, 2015-07-30
British Library, London
Wickramasinghe, Chandra, 1939- (speaker, male)
Merchant, Paul (speaker, male)
Part 2: Comments on first school attended in Ceylon, including discussion of related memories described in autobiography ADCL; anxiety as a child (related to Buddhism) about impermanence of life, including lives of parents. [4:50] Comments on childhood toys, including model train sets, toy cars. Mentions not participating, with other children and brothers, in active games/sports. [5:48] Story of part of childhood spent in London (including sea journey to London), during period of father's study of estate management, University of London, 1946, including schooling, relations with child of neighbours, play with brothers, walks with father and brother on Hampstead Heath. [11:02] Comments on interest in British wildlife/seasonality; closeness of family in Britain; experience of servants in Ceylon; division of childcare/domestic labour between mother and servants; experience of servant assigned to self as a child. [15:50] Further comments on time spent in London including feelings of emotional/social isolation, connected to awareness of racist/discriminatory notices in windows of houses for rent. [19:45] Comments on preparatory school attended in Ceylon (Royal Primary School) then (from age 11) RCC, modelled on English public school, including high quality of mathematics teaching, interest in sciences and humanities throughout school. [23:26] Description of 'elegance' in mathematics. [26:01] Comments on own identity at RCC, including sense of similarities with/differences from peers; teaching of science at RCC; development of interest in science before school, through childhood play (mentions Meccano, radio sets); favouring of chemistry at school; chemistry experimentation at school and at home. [29:19] Comments on science kits bought for self as a child by father; making of own telescopes as an older child. Story of total eclipse of the Sun in June 1955, involving assembly of teams of astronomers in Ceylon making measurements to investigate Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity. Comments on influence on self of reading newspaper accounts of the work of these astronomers. [34:35] Comments on own reading of newspaper science stories as a child, which no memory of these referring to relations between science and religion. [36:12] Comments on own parents' tendency not to mix frequently/regularly with extended family. [37:44] Comments on difficult decision to specialise in mathematics/sciences at A Level, including disagreement with headmaster.
Life story interview with Professor of Astrobiology, Chandra Wickramasinghe